Paul Goldsmith (Photo Courtesy "Conversations With A Winner â€" The Ray Nichels Story")
..."I guess the truth isn't that exciting," laughs Paul Goldsmith from his office at Griffith-Merrillville Airport in Northern Indiana, the facility he has owned and operated for four decades, "but, I raced because I wanted to eat!"
Not necessarily the romantic image most have of the inspiration required to run hard and fast with motorized vehicles.Yet, for a child raised in the ravages of the Great Depression and the deprivations of a World War, the availability of the next meal was a high priority indeed. It takes more than just a mundane need, however, to endure in racing.Desire, determination and a sense of adventure are a few of the motivators.And Goldsmith
didn't just endure, he
excelled. Born in Parkersburg, W.Va., in 1925, his
family moved to Detroit while he
was a teenager.After serving in the Merchant Marines during the war, he went to work in the Chrysler plant and bought a Harley-Davidson with his hard-earned money.
That purchase led him to a lifetime in racing. Paul Goldsmith (Photo Courtesy "Conversations With A Winner â€
...Paul Goldsmith (Photo Courtesy "Conversations With A Winner â€" The Ray Nichels Story")
"The AMA held one of their first races at Marshall, Mich.," recalls Goldsmith
."Back then, they ran three classes: Novice, Amateur and Expert.The local Harley dealer, Earl Robinson, had been helping me develop my motorcycle.I guess I looked pretty good, so he
moved me to the Expert class because they were short on Experts.And that's where I stayed."Goldsmith
finished third in his
initial AMA venture and ran so well on the county fair circuit that he
got a call from Harley. "Walter Davidson met with me," recalls Goldsmith
, "and offered me an excellent deal to run for them.I was just a snotty-nose kid, and I remember thinking, â€˜Man, I've really gone uptown!'" Goldsmith
made the most out of the deal, eventually winning 27 AMA events, including five AMA Nationals, as well as the prestigious 1953 Daytona 200, ran on the beach/road course. Through Marshal Teague, Goldsmith
helped Marshal Teague on his Hudsons until the AMA motorcycle season started.
...Yunick and Goldsmith built a relationship that helped Goldsmith get his start racing cars.
"Smokey was one of those guys that liked to get things done," recalls Goldsmith
had competed in only one auto race before driving Yunick's Chevy.He
had helped a friend prepare a car, which he
then drove in a very early NASCAR event at the Detroit Fairgrounds.He
won it. Goldsmith's
first race with Yunick
was nearly as successful.
"It was a convertible race at the old dirt track in Charlotte," recalls Goldsmith
."I won the pole, with Curtis Turner lined up next to me.I was running good until I broke a shock, caught a rut, and rolled completely over.I landed on my wheels and never slowed up.But I didn't have time to catch Curtis.After that, I'm sure they all thought I was crazy, and I guess I was, but I was on my way!" In 1958, Goldsmith
won Daytona.Driving Yunick's Chevy, he
edged out Turner by five car lengths in the last race held on the old beach/road course.Afterwards, they looked towards Indianapolis. "Smokey had always wanted to try the 500," recalls Goldsmith
, "and wanted to know if I'd drive.
narrowly escaped becoming a fatality himself.
Shortly after the 1958 500, Goldsmith
got a call for a lunch meeting with GM's
Because of his
heavy test and race schedule, Goldsmith
turned to flying to make all the dates, becoming one of the first drivers to earn a pilot's license and to own his
own plane.That evolved into the aviation business he
owns today. Goldsmith
was one of the few drivers of that era who wisely invested his
money.At one time, he
owned two horse farms in Florida and a dozen Burger King restaurants.He
has sold those and has the financial resources to retire. But don't suggest it."I'll never retire," states Goldsmith
emphatically."I tried it back in the 1980s and didn't like it.To keep busy, I actually got my license to race standard bred horses." Goldsmith
nearly won his
first sulky race at the Meadowlands, but his
horse threw a shoe.He
placed third in his
next outing but soon stepped out of the sulky and back to running his
businesses. At 81, Goldsmith
still works daily, flying hundreds of hours a year.He
still insists he
has to eat. One suspects, however, that the desire, determination and adventuresome spirit that took Goldsmith
to the pinnacle of racing is what motivates him still today.